Esli Folkes of New Jersey, United States, has a burning desire to invest in Jamaica.
The 26-year-old was born in the US to Caribbean parents – a Haitian mother and a Jamaican father. He has since been compelled by his West Indian roots to explore ways in which he can give back to Jamaica.
“Investing in Jamaica is more than a simple business venture. I believe it's a life calling. I want to create an environment where my children's children can thrive. I take great pride in my heritage and roots. My Jamaican grandmother brought her family to the US in search of more opportunities. She raised 10 children on her own while accomplishing great career success throughout her years,” Folkes told the Jamaica Observer in an interview.
“I promised her hard work and dedication will not go in vain. Because of her blessing, I was blessed. I believe it's my life duty to provide the same opportunity to all willing diaspora and the citizens of Jamaica. Surely, this is bigger than capital gain return and lucrative dividend payments. I am truly blessed to be in a position that I am in today and I give credit to the tremendous efforts both my parents and grandparents have put in to ensure my future.”
Folkes said he is passionate about energy and is determined to ensure that passion benefits Jamaica.
“Ironically, I haven't been to Jamaica yet, but I have travelled to Ghana, West Africa, for work. Ideally, I am aiming for energy; both liquefied natural gas and gas oil, agriculture and procurement, and solar. A fourth sweetener will be technology or IT and logistics. I have working experience in middle distillates trade and distribution in the West African market, primarily focusing on the Ghanaian downstream sector,” he told the Observer.
That exposure, Folkes added, was unique due to the nature of the business.
“That, coupled with the fact that both nations are almost identical in origin. I will hit the ground running given the opportunity, Jah willing. I want to uncap the full value of Jamaica and her children; I want to see the people of Jamaica thrive.
“A famous quote says it is important that we know where we come from, because if you do not know where you come from then you don't know where you are, and if you don't know where you are, you don't know where you're going. My experience in West Africa single-handedly changed my perspective and sparked my flame. I am determined to serve my people,” he added.
But, it is a very oppressive road. Folkes said it is difficult to translate said passion to action and “give back”.
“It takes patience and connections, considering the lack of transparency and business fraud. Solving these issues will take time, but for the present moment there are three factors that can directly impact the modern day. These are fair and progressive legislative policies; improving infrastructure, both physical and digital; and lastly, financial liquidity.”
Folkes added: “Elevate the citizens through education and reforms, and encourage the Pan African diaspora to engage more. If we can simply figure out a way for both citizens and expats to bring in Western currency and spend Jamaican dollars, surely we'll be on our way to being self-sufficient and thriving.”
He lost both grandmothers, whom he said played an instrumental role in keeping him grounded in Caribbean heritage, when he just started university.
“I was blessed to have my grandparents in my life and was able to gain close to a century worth of wisdom. I have only one grandfather alive today, and he's close to turning 97. Both of my grandmothers passed away from terminal illnesses in the previous decade. I was entering university during them passing,” he recalled. “It was extremely hard to deal with at the time. I coped by turning the pain into motivation. It's my goal to work in philanthropy, focusing on racial disparities in health care.”
However, he said he has the full support of his parents.
“My parents are fully supportive of my ambitions. Everything I do comes from a good heart. It's amazing to have the energy to back my actions.”